Rocket Brings Mobile App DevOps Into The IBM i Fold
May 18, 2016 Alex Woodie
Rocket Software is launching a new tool that simplifies the management and distribution of mobile application source code. Called Rocket Lifecycle for Mobile, the new software is designed to make it easier for IBM i shops to manage the DevOps lifecycle for today’s modern applications, which involve not only closely administered servers but also widely dispersed smartphones.
Mobile application development continues to be a hot trend in the IBM i space, as smartphones become more woven into our personal and professional lives. Four out of 10 IBM i shops have a mobile computing initiative, according to HelpSystems‘ 2016 IBM i Marketplace Survey, representing an increase of 10 percent over 2015.
That smartphones are popular, and that businesses are taking notice, shouldn’t come as a big surprise. But what may surprise you is how businesses are choosing to develop applications for mobile devices. According to the research firm Gartner, the majority of companies are choosing to develop either native or hybrid apps for smartphones platforms, as opposed to Web-based apps.
Developing native apps for iOS, Android, or Windows Phone platforms brings certain advantages, including being able to tap into all the capabilities on that phone, such as GPS, accelerators, phones, etc. The use of hybrid architectures, such as Apache Cordova (i.e. Phonegap) provides similar capabilities.
While native and hybrid app development brings benefits, it also brings additional costs that the IT department must factor into the equation, including the need to deploy and manage code on individual phones. The dynamics are similar to what enterprises faced with the client-server revolution, only it’s much more complicated this time around, says Dan Magid, chief technologist for IBM i solutions at Rocket Software.
“If you’re building a responsive Web app, then a lot of it’s the same,” he says. “But [with native and mobile apps] now I have the problem that I need to get these application components out to devices that I don’t manage, that I don’t run. It’s not like servers on my network. It’s these devices that people carry around.”
Rocket aims to solve that with a new product called Lifecycle for Mobile, which works as a plug-in to the company’s Lifecycle Manager for IBM i, as well as for the open platform version. “What we’re doing is managing the process of getting that code through the standard lifecycle, whatever lifecycle they set up, and then getting the code out to the device and managing the code on the device,” Magid says.
Organizations typically deployed native apps in one of three ways: using the iOS, Android, or Windows Phone apps stores; through their own enterprise app store, or through volume purchase plans. Rocket supports all three techniques.
Lifecycle for Mobile also supports Apache Cordova for hybrid mobile apps. For these types of apps, Rocket software automatically pushes the code up to Cordova, which then executes the build, and then brings the results back down for distribution to the mobile devices.
This style of computing requires Rocket to get up close and personal with mobile devices. “We have code to make sure that when somebody signs on to a device, that they’re running the right version, And if not they’re not running the right version, we automatically download to them the right version of the app, if they’re authorized to use it,” Magid says.
One of the advantages of native and hybrid apps is they work in offline mode when there’s no Internet connection. Rocket supports the development of these apps with its development tool, called Rocket Mobile for i. But the new Lifecycle Manager for Mobile product supports important aspects of these database-powered mobile apps.
“Say somebody leaves their iPad on a plane and it had your board of directors’ documents on that device,” Magid says. “Using Lifecycle Manager for Mobile, you can go out and remotely wipe that data off the device.”
Centralizing the management and deployment of code in Lifecycle Manager allows development teams to keep track of all the constituent pieces that go into today’s modern N-tier applications, including the IBM i part, the Web server part, and the mobile part. It’s a considerable time saver compared to how many IBM i shops manage all these platforms today, Magid says.
“We had a couple of customers tell us that the way they do it now is they get a bunch of people on the phone and have these long conference calls that can last two to four hours as they try to synchronize the IBM i piece with Web piece and mobile piece to make sure everything moves together,” he says. “With this module, we allow you to create a single package that has the IBM i pieces, the Web pieces, and the mobile pieces, and move them through the lifecycle together.”
The new product also supports analytics, which the Gartner experts say is a must for any enterprise that wants to capture behavioral telemetry from applications. “We can also allow them–if they use our Mobile Builder [a separate product]–to automatically insert analytics code into the app, so they can keep track of exactly how people are using the app,” Magid says.
Lifecycle Manager for Mobile is expected to be available soon.